How to argue constructively? Top Santé asked Camille Rocher, couple psychologist, author of “Love Begins After Three Years” and “Being a happy couple”.
Top Health: Why should you dare to argue in a couple?
Camille Rocher : I prefer the term “living the conflict” rather than “discussing”. Dispute hurts because it is about settling scores, unlike conflict, which elevates it. It allows us to confront our opposing ideas and come up with a common solution. The conflict must exist in the couple because it is in any case illusory to think that we would agree on everything!
How would you characterize a beneficial argument for the good health of a couple?
Several clues prove a healthy argument:
• Know how to speak without raising your voice
• Listen carefully to the other and try to rephrase to ensure that we have understood what he meant
• To feel that I myself am understood
• Feel relieved by the solution found together because it takes everyone’s point of view into account
• Accept that the other does not agree with his idea, even if he agrees with the solution found in the end.
What rules must be applied for a dispute to be beneficial and constructive?
In addition to what I have just listed, I will add that there should be no room for judgment and criticism. Any accusation or denigration would turn the conflict into an argument. The slightest attack generates in the other the desire to defend themselves, either by attacking or by withdrawing into themselves. And there, we are no longer constructive.
Beyond settling a conflict, what is the use of an argument in a couple?
It serves to keep the couple alive! A couple that has no conflict inevitably suffocates one or the other of the spouses, or even both. If the absence of a dispute suggests that the couple is in agreement on everything, it actually hides the true personality of one or both spouses who dare not express their disagreement. This can explode after a while, through an often fatal existential crisis for the couple. Another benefit of the conflict, it allows both spouses to continue to discover the person who lives at their side and who continues to evolve as an individual.
What is the risk of a couple who does not argue?
The couple will atrophy, they will lose more and more creativity and life drive. We are attracted to what is different from us. So, if we give the feeling of being the same, of having the same ideas about everything, there will be no more distance between the spouses, therefore no more desire. This is when fatigue sets in. There is also the risk of letting bad habits take over, without questioning.
Keeping silent: what are the dangers for the couple and the individual?
There are two major risks for mental health: one of the spouses falls into depression because he has not been able to give value to his thoughts and has died, wrongly, for the benefit of the couple; one of the spouses has an existential crisis and causes the couple to break up. Infidelity is often also the result because we have the feeling that the couple has become too bland.
When does the argument become useless or even dangerous?
When the tone rises, when everyone starts to resent the other, when you criticize your spouse in front of you! The conflict is not easy to live with but if it is well lived, it is a source of rapprochement.
Some couples always argue about the same topics. A conflict does not always solve the problem. Is it a failure?
The conflict is not resolved until it opens a positive outcome where everyone feels a winner. A deep conflict can take time to be resolved. This can be done over several months, sometimes when the subject is a source of great tension. Simply, you should never abandon him along the way, otherwise he rots the relationship.
What advice would you give to someone who is afraid of conflict?
Asking where this fear comes from seems essential to me. Often it is an early experience, prior to the couple, which suggests that the conflict is necessarily dangerous. It is therefore necessary to trust your spouse to be able to get along and to question themselves. I recommend taking the time to think about how to approach the subject, also waiting for the emotion to subside to use the right words. I believe that we must also learn to stop the conflict if it turns into an argument, without forgetting to come back to it later!
Source : interview with Camille Rocher, psychologist and author of Anoustous blog, November 2021.
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